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Are you and your team in flow? Sentient herd animals can tell.

In flow, or ‘in the zone’ as it is sometimes called, is a cognitive state in which tasks are effortless and more productive. Experienced leaders know this from a theoretical perspective from studies proving the positive correlation between flow and productivity. However remaining intuitively connected to this fluctuating state is difficult in our overwhelming, fast-paced world and often results in extended periods of stagnation and dampened potential.



‘In a 10-year McKinsey study, top executives reported being five times more productive in flow. This means that if you spend Monday in flow, you can actually take the rest of the week off and still get more done than your steady-state peers. Most of us spend less than five percent of our work life in flow, if that number could be nudged up closer to 20 percent, according to that same McKinsey study, overall workplace productivity would almost double’ - Steven Kotler, writing for Forbes in 2014


There are many practical suggestions on how to improve flow, such as improving the clarity of the task, creating a distraction-free work environment, engaging in tasks that are challenging enough but not too challenging or meditating daily to name just a few. But many of these, meditation aside, don’t get deeply enough under the skin of how individual team members can ignite this precious state in a sustained and meaningful way.


Step in highly attuned herd animals, therapy horses to be exact. Horses are masters of flow in their own circles, having survived for 55 million years as a result, and show us clearly how we can improve ours when in their company.


Horses sense fear in another horse from a distance of several miles, can tell if a predator is hungry or already has a belly full and are instinctively programmed to find harmony in their surroundings to conserve their energy for a potential attack. In other words, they use their fright or flight response sparingly and wisely. Unlike humans, who often have these fear responses unknowingly jammed on.


When in the presence of people and able to express themselves freely, therapy horses bring attention to relationship dynamics, patterns of behaviour, self-beliefs, in fact, anything that may be blocking progress and flow in some unsaid way. They help us deepen our emotional intelligence, self-awareness and understanding of others and shine a light on how to rekindle flow for the benefit of the collective, in the work place and in society at large, as well as for the benefit of the individual.


When there is incongruence - ie when someone is feeling x and projecting y - the horses find a way of bringing attention to the discrepancy so that it can be acknowledged, released, embodied and integrated. They are simply asking for authentic intentions and behaviours, both conscious and subconscious.



The overarching principle of working with horses in this way is ultimately one of deepening self-awareness and accessing our innate emotional intelligence, on an individual level and in a team context. The horses instinctively react to our intention and can't be fooled into accepting anything that isn't fully authentic. When the individuals and/or team become aware of certain feelings, attitudes or behaviours, especially those that are deeply ingrained, subconscious patterns, flow can be restored from a place of previous stagnation. Once a new way of reacting or relating is tried out a new set of neural pathways is created in the brain, enabling us to re-enact the same behaviour back in everyday life. It’s what Psychologists and Coaches call Experiential Learning or Pattern Matching. The reason this is so effective around horses is that the horses will qualify - by their instinctive reaction - whether the changes have authentically set in - not just consciously but in a fully embodied way. In other words, whether flow has been enabled without the hindrance of subconscious blocks that could be stifling the potential of our daily interactions, projects and valued relationships.

Track Clinic programmes are broken down into two modules. The first module focuses on engaging the flow state of each team member, whilst witnessed by the members of the team. After integration of these learnings by each team member, over a 2-3 month timescale, the second module starts to address flow from a team perspective. Depending on the specific team objective, a team may be asked to complete a task, such as determining the dynamic of the herd or actively moving the horses from one area to another. How the task is completed and the reaction of the horses will signify clearly where flow is present. When the task is repeated at the end of the module, once subconscious patterns have transformed into conscious action, free from obstruction - the ease of the task and the reaction of the horses is notably different. Often it is the finer details of this experiential learning that allow the team to progress in considerable ways, previously unimagined.


But how do horses do this? There are varying explanations and schools of thought. Some of the overriding, seemingly simple yet indisputable factors;

  • They always react intuitively and authentically. They sense what is happening on a physiological level rather than being distracted by our overactive brains. They help us enter into a state between the conscious and subconscious mind, where alpha and theta brain waves coalesce, said to be the space where the flow state is activated.

  • They are masters at letting go, releasing and clearing unwanted stress or difficulty from their bodies as soon as it arises rather than allowing it to consume and influence future interactions. This is what keeps them safe and in a reliable, honest relationship with each other. They may stretch, shake, yawn, chew, roll, run... literally freeing any residual tension in their immediate environment from their bodies and minds and subsequently in ours too.

  • They have four feet on the ground. They are connected to the electromagnetic field of the earth and hence are fully grounded and present in every moment (free from insulated footwear to cut them off). Like the roots of a tree, they are plugged into the wisdom of their collective and nature on a grand scale.


Track Clinic is an Equine Assisted Team Coaching facility based near Frome in Somerset. Our herd of horses works alongside a team of experienced Equine Assisted Coaches who facilitate the horse-human interactions so that participants can take their new-found wisdom back into their lives and workspaces. We adhere to a globally recognised, evidence-based model of Equine Assisted Coaching for which learnings are proven to be instantaneous and sustained over several years (EAGALA.org)


Team Development Programmes at Track Clinic run from March to October and are attended by senior teams of up to 12 people. Programmes are six months in length and consist of two, sequential two-day modules, a Progress Meeting and Outcomes Review (both virtual) after the programme and several months later to monitor ongoing impact. Each Team Coaching Programme booking funds a 6-week Equine Assisted Psychotherapy treatment for a vulnerable child on an NHS Mental Health waiting list. For more information and for booking contact nina@trackclinic.co.uk


For more information about Equine Assisted Coaching


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